A Patuxent Naval Air Station sailor and his wife today flatly denied killing their 9 1/2 -month-old daughter by withholding fluids and food from her.
"NO!" shouted Peter J. Snyder, the father, when his defense attorney asked if he had murdered his daughter Alyson. "I loved my daughter! I would never have done anything to hurt her!"
Vicki L. Snyder, the infant's mother, was asked one question by her lawyer: Did she withhold fluids from Alyson in the days before the baby's death Nov. 22, 1989?
"No!" she said emphatically.
The Snyders, both 21, are on trial in U.S. District Court in Baltimore for second-degree murder. The prosecution contends they failed to give Alyson enough nourishment after receiving specific instructions to do so from a Navy doctor.
The defense contends that Alyson Snyder died quickly from an undetected meningococcal infection, and that Naval Investigative Service agents and a state medical examiner concocted evidence against the parents, who have two other children.
Peter Snyder, in a tearful hour on the witness stand today, told a jury that he and his wife worried about Alyson's health when she failed to gain weight. "She was always sick," he said. But he said she was "happy" and playful despite her recurring illnesses.
The defendant said he and his wife fed Alyson formula, cereal and snacks regularly, kept a log of meals as instructed and were "very happy" when a Navy doctor told them in June 1989, five months after Alyson's birth, that she was healthy.
He said they were so crushed by Alyson's death they couldn't bear to return to their home on the base.
Peter Snyder also sharply contradicted testimony from Dr. Frank Peretti, a medical examiner who told the jury Alyson's death was a homicide caused by dehydration from lack of fluids.
"Dr. Peretti told me she died from meningitis," the father said.
Under cross-examination, Vicki Snyder denied telling Naval Investigative Service agents that she had heard Alyson crying during the night when the infant died, and denied telling the agents she had kissed her daughter on the forehead in the infant's crib that night.
Vicki Snyder also said Alyson showed no signs of illness the night she died.